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How to Handle RFPs (Requests For Proposals)

How to Handle RFPs (Requests For Proposals)

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How many times has this happened to you?

You check your emails…

Delete.

Unsubscribe.

Delete.

Oh, what’s that? A potential client?

Woohoo!

And then you read their email. They want you to write them a proposal. But not just something minor. They want a full audit and detailed process with suggestions on solving their problems.

Cool. That’s what you do anyway. You solve problems. And you know that “giving free value” is the key to closing clients.

So you (and/or your team) waste (even days) on that proposal. You send it to the prospect…

Then send a follow-up 3 days later.

Then another one 3 days after…
But nothing happens.

Luckily, another RFP lands in your inbox, so you can start hoping again (while prospects keep taking advantage of you).

Don’t worry. That happened to most expertise-based businesses.

But there’s a better way.

Yes.

You can close deals even if you don’t give everything you have for free. As a matter of fact, you’ll be taken more seriously that way.

So stay here if you want to find out how to handle RFPs.

It’s Still Part Of The Business Culture

We feel that sending free proposals is almost a custom nowadays; it’s part of business culture. That’s probably a gift from previous generations. Back then, “the customer was always right.”

Luckily, that’s changing. Not the part about respecting prospects and clients. The part about giving your time and skill away without asking anything in return.

That’s where many digital agencies fail, even though they’re great at what they do.

Nowadays, more and more agencies realize how valuable their time is.

However, when their business stagnates, they get back to writing free proposals even though their clients pay them for similar (sometimes even the same) services.

How would you feel paying good money for something a random company gets for free? Not very good, right?

Some agencies try to find a way around that by writing less detailed proposals. That creates an illusion of productivity. It’s better to send one in-depth proposal (for which you get paid) than 10 poor proposals.

Sending poor proposals is still a waste of time. You don’t make deals with anyone if you don’t deliver in-depth proposals.

The analysis takes time.
You know that.
Your competition knows that.
Prospects know that.

So if a prospect sends 2 RFPs (and it’s never only 2), you send something that barely scratches the surface. While the other agency sends a 15 -page audit with 5 more pages of suggestions… Who’d get a client?

In the perfect world, the agency that gives more value upfront would win. But our world is not perfect, so business ghosting happens even after sending next-level proposals. We’ll return to that sneaky technique prospects use to solve their problems for free.

For now, let’s say that free proposals hurt those who send them and those who don’t. That’s the part of business culture that should go extinct soon.

And there’s one word you can use to speed up that process. It also lets you instantly build authority. And surprisingly, gets you much better clients.

You Need to Learn When To Say NO

There are two eras in the lifespan of most expertise-based businesses. The era in which they’re excited about every RFP they get and write them with passion…

And the second era, the one they desire, begins after they learn the value of “NO”.

Look at that from this POV…

You’re a hunter hidden in a blind. You’re waiting for boars to come and feast on the corn you placed in front of your hideout.

An hour later, you can hear some animals approaching.

As soon as you’re able to see them, you shoot. And you make a kill, and you’re happy about yourself.

But you don’t know that while smaller boars came to feast first, the prized boar was hidden in the forest to see if it was safe to approach. So in a way, you lost regardless of your win because you could take home a much better trophy.

If you don’t like hunting, the same metaphor works for dating.

If you settle for the first person who shows interest, you may never meet your soulmate. You may never achieve your full potential just because you said “Yes” when that tiny inner voice screamed “NO!”

It’s the same in business.

If you don’t learn how to say NO, you’ll keep wasting time writing free proposals and working with clients who don’t value you.

So part of the process of handling RFPs is to learn who isn’t good for you. And there’s a way to determine that from the first contact.

Don’t Focus on Those Who Have Potential; Focus on Those Who ARE

It happened to all of us to start a business relationship because it might grow into something. But more often than not, that turns out to work in favour of one side while the other side hates themselves for settling down.

It usually happens before a coach, consultant, or any other expertise-based business owner learns how to sell their skills, not their time.

While you’re at the stage of selling your time, you don’t believe in yourself. And that makes you weak. And companies sending RFPs know that. They know that for every agency that charges for skills instead of time, there are at least 2 that focus on selling time (and getting ANY clients).

And such prospects use that to their advantage. That’s the major problem with RFPs. They can send 32 RFPs and get 10 proposals back. A decent team can implement strategies from those proposals, combine them, use them to get ideas, etc. All of that without ever replying to experts who invested time, skill, and energy into proposals.

So the next time you get an RFP, make them enter your pre-qualification process. That will show you who to focus on.

Pre-qualification Process Lets You Pick Ideal Clients

One of the reasons why coaching (and other) businesses can’t scale is wasting their time on toxic clients who take a lot more than they give back.

A detailed pre-qualification process lets you test your prospects. And it makes you look more professional while giving you a chance to see if you’re a good fit.

Every business is different, so there’s no rule of thumb you must follow to create your pre-qualification process. But it MUST include one step (if you want to stop wasting resources on RFPs).

Paid Workshop as the Solution for RFPs

Paid workshops proved to be the ideal beginning of discovering if it’s worth working with someone.

Firstly, you partially protect your resources by charging for the initial workshop.

You can look at the paid workshop as the front-end product of your value ladder.

It determines if the prospect is ready to “pull out the credit card” and become your customer. If someone doesn’t want to pay 10, 20, or 50% of your actual price for a workshop – they aren’t your ideal client.

Can you already see the power behind charging for proposals?

You yank the chain by asking them if they’re ready to pay a small fee to hear your opinion. If they don’t react, don’t waste another second and move on to someone who doesn’t insist on free proposals.

And many prospects aren’t freebie hunters. Such people are usually thankful for the paid workshop, which lays a platinum-level foundation for your business relationship.

The difference between sending raw proposals and jumping on a workshop is massive. It’s like selling in person and over email. When the prospect is in front of you, you get immediate feedback. You get to ask questions. You get to show how professional you are, and you get to read their body language.

As Gio said in the latest episode of the podcast, workshops are client meters.

They also let you see where the prospect is. They might not be aware of everything they need. Sometimes people send RFPs for services they don’t even need. And if you show them that in a workshop, you stop being a service provider. You become a partner to their business. And partners get a lot more respect and money than random service providers.

However, not every workshop is equal. And you can’t approach a workshop like it’s a casual meeting with a long-term client.

Be Clear About the Results of The Workshop

If you productize your services, in this case, workshop, it will be much easier for your prospects to see the expected results. That promise makes the difference between a random call and a valuable meeting. Instead of wasting time trying to present yourself in the best light, you can start moving your prospects toward the promised outcome.

And if you show them the goal and you can take them there, you’ll probably close that deal because they’ll have proof of your value. That’s one of the secrets behind Filip Zolota’s stunning 96% close rate. That’s the secret to business in general:

  • find someone with a problem
  • show them the perfect solution
  • implement it

 

However, paid workshops might turn against you if you use them poorly (or at the wrong stage of your career).

How to Know If You Should Offer Paid Workshops

We’re proud of our pricing system because it instantly builds our authority and shows that we don’t do freebies. For our ideal clients, that’s a good sign. It’s proof of our expertise. However, without evidence of results to back up our promises, we’d be nothing more than a Paper Tiger.

That’s why inexperienced teams can’t afford to offer paid workshops. Or if they can, they must put the perfect price tag on that product, which isn’t always easy. Luckily, learning how to determine the right price is part of our Value-Based Pricing workshop. Even seasoned teams sometimes need help with pricing.

However, you can’t afford to reply to RFP emails if you’re part of an experienced team with many projects under your belt. We listed the main reasons for that above…

Still, if you feel that you’re ready to start charging for EVERYTHING you do but don’t know how to make that leap of fate…

There’s a product that can equip you with everything you need to prevent yourself from sending free proposals. NO Proposal Policy with Filip Zolota covers everything from this article.

But Filip goes in so much depth that clients can successfully implement gems he shares immediately after the 2-day program (even during). And that takes business to a new era – where RFPs become just a bad memory.